Ioana Dulcu - Anxiety and Stress Online Therapy

Cultivating Connection and Intimacy in a Couple After Having a Baby

In the early stages of parenthood, the couple’s relationship often takes the back seat, with the primary focus shifting to the needs of the child. Explore how couples navigate the tumultuous journey of parenthood, striving for balance, communication and intimacy amidst the challenges of adjusting to new roles.

Even in the happiest cases, couples may sense a shift in their dynamics with the arrival of the baby, feeling a sense of distance from each other compared to their pre-parenthood relationship. However, not all couples with young children face the same kinds of problems, and not all couples handle issues the same way.

Balance can exist in a couple following the arrival of a child despite the significant impact this transition typically entails. Adjustment takes time, patience, and commitment from both partners. In addition, as the new family takes shape, the context of building a healthy balance emerges. Just like maintaining balance in any aspect of life, balance within a couple involves closeness, trust, support, and open communication. 

Many conflicts in couples that destabilise balance come from this very place: from the feeling that one partner is doing too much and the other too little, either concerning the relationship itself or regarding responsibilities related to childcare or household chores.

What is important to point out here is that maintaining a healthy couple relationship also fosters a positive dynamic for the children. In the end, our actions speak louder than words.

Adjusting to a new role. Why do young parents seek therapy?

Young mothers often find themselves overwhelmed by the demands of their new role, coupled with sleep deprivation, less freedom, and less privacy, along with worries about the baby’s well-being and development, as well as the challenges of breastfeeding. 

Some can experience postpartum depression, whose untreated symptoms can last for months and are among the most unpleasant: feelings of emptiness and hopelessness, mood swings, irritability, and restlessness. Many mothers may not even recognise they are going through this due to a lack of awareness, fear of being judged as not being good mothers, or attributing the symptoms to the inherent stress of motherhood.

Another common issue women face after becoming mothers is the strain on their relationships, which undergoes significant changes. The transition from two to three is undoubtedly one of the most profound challenges a couple can face. The dynamics shift, and not necessarily for the better. This transformation can lead to serious communication problems and a loss of connection between partners.

Even couples with the strongest bonds can experience tough times. The saddest thing is that no one wants to talk about it. Often, news of friends or acquaintances’ divorces comes as a shock after leaving the impression that everyone else is leading blissful lives, going on vacations, nurturing their children tenderly, and outwardly appearing as happy couples. However, the reality is that many struggle silently through hardships and the trials of potential divorce or reconciliation.

Men also seek therapy after becoming fathers, although statistically in fewer numbers. They don’t necessarily come for the same reasons as women, but rather on the adjustment to their new role and the responsibilities that go with it. They, too, have fears and concerns, but these are more oriented around their identity as men and partners in a couple. Today’s fathers face a significant challenge—they lack present father figures who actively engaged in their physical and emotional caregiving tasks. Consequently, they feel inadequate in their paternal role and struggle to learn it. Messages like “boys don’t cry” and traditional gender role stereotypes pose obstacles for men in sharing their challenges with friends.

Additionally, men experience shifts in intimacy and communication within their relationships, which can lead to conflicts and emotional distance. Another common issue is the guilt they feel for not being involved enough in parenting, together with the work-life pressures. This combination often generates inner conflict, heightened stress and anxiety.

Do parents still have sex? What does a fulfilled sex life look like?

The dynamics of sex life inevitably change when you become a parent. The early stages often decrease frequency and spontaneity, as the demands of parenthood can take up much of a couple’s time and energy. Sleep deprivation, new responsibilities and the sheer physical demands of caring for a child can leave parents feeling exhausted and less inclined towards intimacy. I want to shed light on two perspectives—hers and his:

She refuses or has no energy for sex – the reasons are numerous: either hormonal causes (lack of sleep, breastfeeding, vaginal dryness, which is common in the early postpartum months), along with potential low self-esteem caused by changes in body shape after childbirth.

He refuses or has no energy for sex – there can be multiple factors: depression, anxiety due to financial pressure, fatigue, and challenges in perceiving his partner as a romantic partner rather than solely a mother. For instance, consider the impact on intimacy with breasts; once objects of desire, they become constant sources of comfort and nourishment for the baby.

An enriching sexual relationship thrives on open communication, ensuring that neither partner interprets rejection or distance as a personal attack, which can lead to a significant and challenging divide for the couple to bridge.

Loneliness in the couple can become overwhelming, combined with the guilt about the child and loss of individual freedom. How to get out of this vicious circle? 

Breaking the circle takes time and effort from both partners. Often, the realisation that one or both partners are in a vicious circle happens against a background of frustration and a lot of fatigue. Breaking out of the circle is facilitated by seeking outside support, from family or friends to professional resources that can offer help with childcare or emotional support. It is important, on the one hand, that the person start taking care of themselves again and reintegrate at least some of the activities that previously brought them joy and helped recharge their batteries. This could involve hobbies, socialising with friends, or joining other parenting groups to share experiences and gain new perspectives on life with children. 

At the same time, breaking this vicious circle entails engaging in open and honest communication about needs and feelings, including loneliness and challenges. It also requires setting aside regular time for reconnecting as a couple, which can encompass various activities such as enjoying a morning coffee together, taking a walk outdoors, having dinner together, or engaging in other mutually enjoyable activities.

Closeness in a couple involves openness and maintaining an open mind. A couple is about two parties, each with their own unique needs.

There are numerous resources available about fostering closeness in a relationship, but it’s important to take what fits us best. I would mention here that, regardless of the tactic applied, we should always keep in mind the 4 A’s or the four primary emotional needs, fundamental for the well-being of each of us, just like the legs of a table firmly supporting the tabletop.

These needs are affection, attention, acceptance, and appreciation. If we can provide them to each other in a genuine and consistent way, the relationship will grow and certainly be more satisfying.

We can show affection through simple gestures such as hugging, kissing, cuddling, making coffee, active listening, and open communication, showing interest in the partner’s needs and wishes. At the same time, accepting our partner as they are, with their qualities and flaws, means being open and avoiding judgement and constant criticism. 

Appreciation is an often underestimated emotional need in a relationship, so it is important to acknowledge and value our partner’s efforts and qualities whenever the opportunity arises.

And lastly, let’s not forget that in a harmonious couple, sex sets things in motion. 


And when neither therapy nor sex works anymore, what remains, in my opinion, and for the sake of the children, is the bond of friendship and the capability to co-parent even if the parents are no longer together as a couple.


If you’re seeking guidance and support for your couple challenges, Contact me today to discover how I can assist you on your journey toward a healthier and happier relationship.